Home / Pakistan / The creation & mutation of a national ideology | By Nadeem F. Paracha
The creation & mutation of a national ideology

The creation & mutation of a national ideology | By Nadeem F. Paracha

For decades certain sections of the Pakistani intelligentsia have been insisting on the importance of changing the country’s national narrative (to better fight the social aspects of Pakistan’s war against religious extremism).

They are correct in suggesting that the more militant ogres now at war with the state of Pakistan are armed expressions and projections of a rather myopic national narrative.

This narrative, to them, is the result of whatever that was concocted in the name of a national ideology many years ago and then proliferated through school text books and the state-owned media until it began to inform the political, constitutional and social mind-set of the Pakistani polity as a whole.

Today, it is largely being blamed for popularising a peculiar idea of nationhood engineered through the state’s many experiments that seeded a non-organic ideology – a dogma that has contributed the most in whatever that has gone down in this country in terms of faith-based violence and the ever-increasing episodes of bigotry.

So what was this idea? And why today even the military and political establishments of the country are finally looking to tweak it, if not outright replace it?


The paradox

Pakistan had come into being in 1947 on the back of what its founders called the Two Nation Theory.

The Theory was culled from the 19th Century writings of modernist Muslim reformers in India who, after the collapse of the Muslim Empire in South Asia, began to explain the region’s Muslims as a separate political and cultural entity (especially compared to the Hindu majority of India).

This scholarly nuance gradually evolved into becoming a pursuit to prepare a well-educated and resourceful Muslim middle-class in the region.

Eventually, with the help from sections of the Muslim landed elite in India, the emerging Muslim middle-classes turned the idea into a movement for a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia comprised of those areas where the Muslims were in a majority.

This is what we today understand to be the Pakistan Movement.

A picture from America’s LIFE magazine showing dozens of Muslim students taking out rally in support of the creation of Pakistan in Delhi in 1946.
A picture from America’s LIFE magazine showing dozens of Muslim students taking out rally in support of the creation of Pakistan in Delhi in 1946.

However, when the country’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, navigated the Movement towards finally reaching its main goal of carving out a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia, he was soon faced with an awkward fact: There were almost as many Muslims (if not more) in India than there were in the newly created Muslim-majority country of Pakistan.

Jinnah was conscious of this fact when he delivered his first major address to the new country’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.

Though during the Movement some factions of his party had tweaked the Two Nation Theory to also mean that the Muslims of India desired an Islamic State, Jinnah was quick to see the contradiction in this claim simply because millions of Muslims had either been left behind in India or had refused to migrate to Pakistan.

Islam during the Movement was largely used as a cultural card to furnish and flex the Muslims’ separate nationhood claims. It was never used as a theological roadmap to construct an Islamic State in South Asia.

In his August 11 speech Jinnah clearly declared that in Pakistan the state will have nothing to do with the matters of the faith and Pakistan was supposed to become a democratic Muslim-majority nation-state.

He went on to add:

‘Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time (in Pakistan), Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense – because that is the personal faith of each individual – but in the political sense as citizens of the State.’

Jinnah talking to members of the foreign press soon after the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
Jinnah talking to members of the foreign press soon after the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Some extraordinary circumstances (World War II, the receding of British Colonialism and the rising tensions between the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities in India) had combined to hand Jinnah a Muslim-majority country.

But it seems many of his close colleagues were still in the Movement mode. Not only because the Pakistan Movement was still a fresh memory, but also because when the Muslim League became the first ruling party of the country, it had to constantly evoke Islam in places like the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (former NWFP) where the Pushtun nationalists had refused to join Pakistan.

Also, another region, Kashmir, having a Muslim majority but an aristocratic Hindu government, had controversially opted to stay out of the Pakistan federation.

So a number of League members thought that in his August 11 speech, Jinnah was a bit too hasty in discarding the Islamic factor and opting to explain the new country as a multicultural Muslim-majority state – even though these leaders too had had very little idea exactly what would be the precise ideological make-up of the country.


Groping in a vacuum

Jinnah died in 1948 leaving behind a huge leadership vacuum in a country that had apparently appeared on the map a lot sooner than it was anticipated to by even those who had been striving hard for its creation.

The slogan of Islam might have worked to pull together the Muslim minority (consisting of various ethnicities and sects) of India during the Pakistan Movement, but there was no guarantee that it would be able to do the same in a country where the same Muslims had now become an overwhelming majority.

Ideally a system and constitution advocating democracy should have been worked out to facilitate and streamline the political and cultural participation of all ethnicities, sects and ‘minority religions’ in the nation-building process.

But this wasn’t done. Political and cultural expressions of ethnicity were immediately treated as being threats to the unity of the nation.

Prime Minister Liquat Ali Khan, though steeped in the progressive Modernist Muslim tradition of Sir Syed’s ‘Aligarh School of Thought,’ was, however, willing to continue to use Islam selectively to maintain the cherished unity of the Muslim majority of Pakistan.

He wasn’t the ‘son of the soil.’ Meaning, unlike most Sindhis, Pushtuns, Punjabi, Baloch and Bengalis, Liquat was born outside of what eventually became Pakistan and (thus) didn’t have a large constituency based on language and ethnicity in the new country.

So it is understandable why the notion of Islam being a unifying factor was important to him.

But the question was what kind of Islam?

This question hadn’t really mattered during the Pakistan Movement in which the Muslims of South Asia were agitating as a minority. But then when a large part of this minority became a majority in Pakistan, the historical, political and theological divisions and crevices between this majority’s many sects and sub-sects (and ethnicities) began to seem starker than before.

Pakistan’s first ruling party, the Muslim League, that was bred on the theories of Muslim nationhood that evolved from the scholarly works of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and philosopher and poet, Muhammad Iqbal, had understood all the Muslim sects and sub-sects of South Asia to be a community united by various doctrinal and political commonalities and a rich history of conquest, and scientific and cultural achievements.

After lamenting the decadent state this community had slipped into after the fall of the Muslim Empire in India, these men pointed towards a renewed, refreshed and updated look at Islam to become the catalyst that would revive the vitality of this community.

To men like Liaquat Ali Khan (Pakistan’s first Prime Minister), Pakistan was to be explained as the organic culmination and natural result of what Sir Syed and (especially) Iqbal had been contemplating and advocating.

Islam in Pakistan was to make all ethnicities and sectarian differences secondary compared to the precepts of Pakistani nationhood.

But what exactly was this nationhood about?

A part of the answer first came from a man who during the Pakistan Movement had actually denounced Jinnah!

Islamic scholar and chief of the Jamat-e-Islami (JI), Abul Ala Maududi, was a well-read and prolific journalist and author. Though his commentaries in this respect were highly conservative, this was a radical conservatism of sorts that became the basis of the 20th century theoretical construct known as ‘Political Islam’

Maududi not only challenged the Muslim nationalism of the likes of Jinnah (claiming nationalism had no place in Islam), he even managed to offend many scholars of various Muslim sects, accusing them of either being wedged in ancient clerical traditions, or simply distorting the true message of Islam through unsavoury ‘innovations’.

To him the Muslims’ renewal as a political and cultural force depended not on Muslim nationalism but on an evolutionary process across all Muslim societies in which the societies were to be ‘Islamized’ from below (through aggressive evangelism) so that they could be prepared for Islamic laws imposed from above (the state).

Another problem Maududi had with Pakistan was that he considered the new country to be in a state of jahiliya – Arab word meaning the ‘ignorance’ in Mecca before the arrival of Islam (late 6th and early 7th Century CE).

Abul Ala Maududi
Abul Ala Maududi

So it was ironic when Liaquat and his aids agreed to adopt a portion of Maududi’s early thesis on Political Islam while passing the 1949 Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly.

When the Resolution was passed in May 1949, it was supposed to be an outline of what the final constitution of the country would look and sound like and also what Pakistani nationhood should be about.

Just a year and a half after Jinnah had described Pakistan to be a Muslim-majority country where religion and state would be largely separate, the Resolution now declared Pakistan to be ‘an Islamic entity’.

There was uproar among the country’s Hindu and Christian sections (called ‘minorities’). Their leaders accused the government of ignoring Jinnah’s original vision and submitting to the dictates of his ‘detractors’.

To the critics of the Resolution the creation of Pakistan had more to do with the idea of safeguarding the economic wellbeing and interests of the Muslims of the region than with their theological status.

Liquat tried to pacify the critics by pointing out that the Resolution had envisioned a progressive and democratic Islamic country and that the minorities need not worry.

Consequently, Maududi’s JI decided to end its boycott of doing politics in Pakistan after the Resolution was passed, despite the fact that the Resolution did not translate into meaning that the government would begin to legislate religious laws immediately (or was even willing to).

Liaquat Ali Khan: Some of his early political pretences betrayed his solid modernist disposition.
Liaquat Ali Khan: Some of his early political pretences betrayed his solid modernist disposition.

The government might have thought that it had successfully defined the finer points of Pakistani nationhood through the Resolution, but the truth was things in this context got even more complex.

In 1953 vicious riots erupted in Lahore against the Ahmadiyya community when JI and another fundamentalist party, the Majlis-e-Ahrar, demanded that the community be declared heretical and non-Muslim.

The Ahmadiyya that had emerged in the 19th century as a branch of South Asian Islam had been at odds with the more mainstream sects of the religion. The tensions between the Ahmadiyya and other sects culminated into violence (mostly against the Ahmadiyya) because now the religious parties pointed out that the 1949 Objectives Resolution hinted at the excommunication of heretical sects.

A similar demand was made to Jinnah by India’s Islamic parties in the 1940s. He was asked to declare the Ahmadiyya as non-Muslim, but he refused. What’s more, the Ahmadiyya became staunch supporters of Jinnah and the Pakistan Movement.

However, in 1956, shaken by the riots and constantly challenged by Sindhi, Baloch, Bengali and Pushtun nationalists, and finally realizing that the 1949 Objectives Resolution had done precious little to clear the foggy notion of Pakistani nationhood, the Constituent Assembly (made up of indirectly elected members of the Muslim League and the splinter Republican Party), got down to finally author the country’s first constitution.

In the constitution the angry ethnicities were appeased with the promise of direct elections based on adult franchise, while the fundamentalists were given the space to now officially define Pakistan as an ‘Islamic Republic’.

Members of the Constituent Assembly approving the 1956 Constitution.
Members of the Constituent Assembly approving the 1956 Constitution.

In 1957 most of the ethnic detractors came together in the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP).

But in late 1958, President Iskandar Mirza, who wasn’t happy with the Constitution nor with the potential of parties like NAP to win the election, colluded with the military chief, Ayub Khan, and dismissed the assembly and imposed the country’s first Martial Law.

Mirza had described the 1956 Constitution as ‘a vulgar exploitation of religion to achieve political gains.’

But just twenty days after the imposition of Martial Law, Mirza was dismissed by Ayub and forced to leave the country. Ayub, as Chief Martial Law Administrator, became the sole centre of power in Pakistan.

Front page of DAWN a day after the 1958 coup.
Front page of DAWN a day after the 1958 coup.

Ayub wasted no time in exhibiting his disgust at what had transpired in the county’s politics after Jinnah’s death, and got down to completely scrap whatever that had emerged as Pakistani nationhood in the preceding decade and took it upon himself to once and for all give a definitive shape to Pakistan nationalism.


The great debate

Ayub was a practicing Muslim but almost entirely secular in his political and social outlook. In one of his first speeches to the nation, he claimed that he wanted to ‘liberate the spirit of religion from superstition and move forward under the forces of modern sciences and knowledge.’

But understanding that a nation-state requires powerful myths to base its justification on, Ayub became the first Pakistani head of state to overtly use the state to devise a more holistic national ideology.

He formed the Advisory Council on Islamic Ideology (ACII) and the Islamic Research Institute and populated both with liberal Islamic scholars.

Imagining himself to be a latter day Kamal Ataturk and a Muslim de Gaulle , Ayub claimed to express Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan which, to him, was about a modern Muslim-majority state with a strong economy (based on heavy industry) and a sturdy military that would not only protect the country’s borders but its ideology as well.

Political parties had been banned by Ayub but he lifted the ban in 1962.

The parties on the left like the National Awami Party (NAP) opposed him for his overt capitalist manoeuvres, his regime’s close relationship with the United States, and his insistence on refusing to entertain the demands of the Sindhi, Baloch, Bengali and Pushtun nationalists for decentralization, democracy and provincial autonomy.

The religious parties, especially the Jamat-i-Islami (JI), largely focused their opposition against Ayub’s secular policies, accusing him of undermining the role of Islam in Pakistan.

Ayub posing with a painting of famous Mughal Emperor Akbar. To Ayub, Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan was about a robust Muslim-majority state with a strong economy (based on heavy industry), a sturdy military, and cultural and scientific advancements made through modern means.
Ayub posing with a painting of famous Mughal Emperor Akbar. To Ayub, Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan was about a robust Muslim-majority state with a strong economy (based on heavy industry), a sturdy military, and cultural and scientific advancements made through modern means.
A 1964 ad for a Pakistani cigarette brand targeting emerging women smokers in the country. Such ads tried to capture the feel-good environment the Ayub regime was portraying.
A 1964 ad for a Pakistani cigarette brand targeting emerging women smokers in the country. Such ads tried to capture the feel-good environment the Ayub regime was portraying.

However, by aggressively attempting to mould a national ideology, Ayub, rather uncannily, gave the JI the idea to take the concept and turn it on its head.

The term ‘Pakistan Ideology’ (Nazariya-e-Pakistan) was nowhere in the founders’ speeches during the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

When Ayub’s 1962 Constitution highlighted his understanding of Pakistani nationhood to mean being a Muslim state where a modern and reformist spirit of Islam would guide the country’s politics and society, JI opposed it.

It was at this point that one for the first heard the term Nazariya-e-Pakistan. It is largely believed that it was first used by JI and some members of the dissident Muslim League-Council members who suggested that the Pakistan Ideology should be squarely based on policies constructed through the dictates of religious laws and should strive to turn Pakistan into becoming an Islamic State because it was on the basis of Islam that the country had separated from the rest of India.

Of course, very little was mentioned in this context by the JI about the fact that the party had originally opposed the creation of Pakistan, and had described Jinnah’s Muslim League as a pseudo-Muslim party.

The debate about what kind of a vision drove Jinnah to demand a separate Muslim country in South Asia and what should constitute Pakistani culture and nationhood reached a crescendo in the late 1960s when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto formed the socialist Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP); and when Sindhi, Baloch, Pushtun and Bengali nationalists had accelerated their agitation for provincial autonomy.

To the JI the story of Pakistan began not during the Pakistan Movement, but with the invasion of Sindh by Arab commander, Muhammad bin Qasim, in the 8th Century CE who defeated the region’s Hindu ruler, Raja Dahir.

On the other end, Sindhi, Pashtun and Bengali nationalists rejected Ayub’s version of Pakistani nationhood (based on a state-sanctioned notion of progressive patriotism and firm centralization).

They also denounced JI’s new-found Nazariya-e-Pakistan. For example, Sindhi scholar and nationalist leader, GM Syed, declared that Sindhi culture was squarely at odds with the Pakistan state’s understanding of Islam and nationhood.

He also went to the extent of suggesting that to the Sindhis, Muhammad bin Qasim was the usurper and Raja Dahir the hero (because he was the son of the soil and Qasim, the invader).

Famous Sindhi scholar and nationalist, GM Syed
Famous Sindhi scholar and nationalist, GM Syed

The PPP saw itself being pulled into the debate when, after witnessing the ascendency of leftist parties in Pakistan in the late 1960s, and the growing agitation by Bengali nationalists in East Pakistan, the JI declared that socialism was an anti-Islam ideology akin to atheism.

Prominent intellectuals in the PPP and those sympathetic to its cause, specially Hanif Ramay, Safdar Mir and poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, retaliated (though pro-PPP magazines) by first emphasising the JI’s pre-1947 anti-Jinnah rhetoric, and then suggesting that Pakistani nationhood and culture were multi-ethnic and multicultural and best served by democracy and socialism.

In 1968, JI’s founder and Islamic scholar, Abul Ala Maududi, described the mushrooming leftist and liberal political organizations and cultural outfits of the country as ‘Trojan Horses’ through which they had infiltrated the Pakistani society, educational institutions, the media and the government to erode Pakistan’s ‘Islamic character.’

Cafes such as this one often echoed with passionate debates on Islam, socialism, democracy and nationhood during the great debate on Pakistani nationalism that raged among political parties, intellectuals and Ayub regime in the late 1960s.
Cafes such as this one often echoed with passionate debates on Islam, socialism, democracy and nationhood during the great debate on Pakistani nationalism that raged among political parties, intellectuals and Ayub regime in the late 1960s.

By 1967, the robust nature of the Ayub regime and its confidence began to fade as the economy started to flounder due to the effects of the 1965 Pakistan-India War.

Interestingly, as the movement triggered by leftist political parties and student groups against the Ayub regime gained momentum in the late 1960s, Ayub’s Information Ministry had already begun to mend fences with the JI.

And by the time the besieged Ayub resigned in 1969 and handed over power to General Yahya Khan, the JI rebounded to become an ally of the regime!

General Yaya was a notoriously colourful character but smart enough to use the JI and Maududi’s status as a respected and prolific Islamic scholar to blunt the leftists’ unprecedented push against the military regime.

Told by his intelligence agencies that an election at best would produce a hung verdict, Yayah agreed to his opponents’ demand of holding the country’s first election based on adult franchise.

Yahya Khan (1970)
Yahya Khan (1970)

As Ayub’s idea of Pakistani nationhood dwindled and went out with its main architect, JI made its concept of Nazariya-e-Pakistanone of the main planks of the party’s election manifesto.

During the 1970 election campaign, JI appealed to the voters to defeat the left and ethnic-nationalist parties because they were a threat to Islam and to Nazariya-e-Pakistan.

But JI (along with most other religious parties), were routed by the PPP and NAP (in West Pakistan), and by the Bengali nationalist party, the Awami League (in East Pakistan).


Starting over

Bhutto’s party, the PPP, that had swept the 1970 elections in former West Pakistan’s two largest provinces – Punjab and Sindh – on a socialist manifesto, formed the government at the centre after the violent separation of East Pakistan in 1971.

Another left-wing party, the National Awami Party (NAP) that had won a number of seats in the former NWFP and Balochistan, was able to form coalition governments in these provinces.

The first phase of the Bhutto regime (1972-74) was dominated by the radical left-wing of the PPP.

However, since Pakistan found itself reeling from an expensive war (against India in December 1971), a demoralised army, and fears that India may go on to fan more separatist movements in Pakistan; the Bhutto government sanctioned a project to mould an ideological narrative that would help the state and society redeem the floundering belief in a united Pakistan.

In a nutshell, the new narrative now went something like this: West Pakistan was always the real Pakistan because it’s a cohesive and seamless region that runs from north to south along the mighty Indus River. This region’s population had predominantly been Muslim (ever since the 12th Century), and though it may have a number of ethnicities, its population has largely remained aloof from the happenings in India’s ancient seat of power in Delhi, and had similar views on Islam.

This meant that the Bengali-majority East Pakistan that lay thousands of miles away from West Pakistan was an unnatural part of what had appeared on the map as Pakistan in 1947. This is how East Pakistan’s separation was explained away.

Though the Bhutto regime was populist, socialist and largely secular, in 1973 it managed to get a consensus from all the parties in the National Assembly to unveil a new constitution that reintroduced Pakistan as an Islamic Republic.

JI and other religious parties had explained the breakup of Pakistan in 1971 as a consequence of its rulers failing to turn the country into an Islamic state and thus giving leftists and ethnic nationalists enough space to dictate terms and harm the unity of the country.

ZA Bhutto in his favourite ‘Mao cap’ waves to the crowd in 1973.
ZA Bhutto in his favourite ‘Mao cap’ waves to the crowd in 1973.
A 1974 ad propagating the government’s ‘socialist’ tenor and nationalisation policies, almost positioning Jinnah as being a socialist.
A 1974 ad propagating the government’s ‘socialist’ tenor and nationalisation policies, almost positioning Jinnah as being a socialist.

The second half of the Bhutto regime (1974-77) saw the slowing down of its socialist projects and the declining influence of PPP’s socialist and Marxist ideologues in the policy-making process.

The regime’s capitulation in the event of the agitation and the demands of the religious parties to declare the Ahamadiyya community as a non-Muslim minority was at least one symptom of Bhutto’s rightward drift.

By the 1977 election, the PPP had all but eliminated the word socialism from its manifesto. Its regime, elected on a relatively radical socialist program in 1970, had (within a matter of five years) become a somewhat odd mixture of nationalist populism and an equally populist expression of Political Islam.

Bhutto had sensed the Islamic revival taking place across the Muslim world after the 1973 Arab-Israel War. Though the war had ended in a stalemate of sorts, oil-rich Arab monarchies enjoyed a sudden rise in profits after they slowed down oil production and greatly raised petrol prices.

The massive profits earned from the move gave the oil-producing Arab states power to effectively influence Muslim regimes that did not have the fortune of owning vast oil fields.

Saudi Arabia had hardly played a role in the matters of Pakistan before 1973. But after 1973 Bhutto’s Pakistan (just as Sadat’s Egypt had begun to do) began to court the oil-rich Saudi monarchy, hoping to fatten their respective countries’ struggling economies with hearty hand-outs from their wealthy Muslim brethren (‘Petro Dollars’).

Bhutto hosts Saudi King Faisal in Karachi (1975)
Bhutto hosts Saudi King Faisal in Karachi (1975)

But the money came with a condition. The Saudi monarchy was a passionate proponent of a rather puritanical strand of Islam. Between the 1950s and early 1970s, it was alarmed by the rise of socialist regimes in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan.

The Saudi monarchy had felt that Saudi Arabia had lost its traditional hold over the international narrative of Islam to upstart ideas such as quasi-secular Arab nationalism (in the Arab regions) and to this nationalism’s non-Arab manifestations in the Muslim countries in South and East Asia.

After 1973, when Saudi Arabia began to pump in huge amounts of money into Muslim countries, with this money also came allusions and nudges to undermine leftist ideologies and kick-start an intellectual and political exercise to ‘Islamise’ governments and societies according to the Saudis’ interpretation of the faith.

Arab monarchies had struggled to stay afloat against the onslaught and rise of secular Arab nationalism (‘Arab Socialism’) in the 1950s and 1960s, and in spite of the fact that most of these monarchies were allies of Western powers, they were also conscious of Western political ideas (such as democracy) trickling into the minds of their citizens, especially the younger lot.

From 1973 onwards a huge amount of Petro Dollars began to be disbursed and distributed among Muslim academics, intellectuals, governments and religious leaders and clerics.

What began to emerge from this exercise was a Political Islam that was anti-socialism/communism, anti-Zionism and anti-liberalism, but (curiously) at the same time it was pro-West, pro-business, pro-monarchy and with a healthy bank balance!

Bhutto, apart from trying to appease the religionist lobby by reintroducing certain religious clauses in the 1973 Constitution, and then giving the fast-developing Islam-centric narrative a run across Pakistan Studies text books, then moved in to appease his new-found Saudi friends and donors.

Since by now the ‘Pakistan Ideology’ that was developing under Bhutto had begun to place Pakistan’s historical roots in lands from where Arab horsemen had invaded India in the 8th Century, it was decided that the Arabic language too should be adopted and taught in schools.


The final cut

But till about 1975 the Pakistan society and government had remained largely pluralistic, and Bhutto felt secure in believing that he was successfully keeping his left and liberal constituencies satisfied along with the conservative religious sections of the society and also Pakistan’s new Arab donors.

Famous revolutionary poet, late Habib Jalib, enjoys a drink with friends at a restaurant in Karachi in 1975.
Famous revolutionary poet, late Habib Jalib, enjoys a drink with friends at a restaurant in Karachi in 1975.
Students at a medical college in Karachi in 1975. The Bhutto regime’s confidence had peaked by 1975 as he thought he was successfully treading a clever line between liberalism, populism and faith-based conservatism. But the façade collapsed in 1977.
Students at a medical college in Karachi in 1975. The Bhutto regime’s confidence had peaked by 1975 as he thought he was successfully treading a clever line between liberalism, populism and faith-based conservatism. But the façade collapsed in 1977.

So it must have come as a rude shock to him when in December 1976, a nine-party alliance of religious and anti-Bhutto parties united under the umbrella of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA).

The alliance geared up to face Bhutto’s PPP in the 1977 election. And it was only when the PNA used the words ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (The Prophet’s System) as its main slogan that it became apparent that the Bhutto regime’s experiments in the still elusive territory of the Pakistan Ideology had actually ended up providing his opponents the space and idea to use Islam as an electoral tool; that sounded a lot more ‘revolutionary’ compared to what the religious parties had used during the 1970 election.

Another factor that Bhutto might have undermined was that Saudi Arabia was not only cultivating relations with the Bhutto regime, it was also on very good terms with the religious parties that were opposing him.

Instead of countering PNA’s religious overtones by falling back on its original appeal of being a populist ‘pro-poor’ party, the PPP went on the defensive, because according to Bhutto’s analysis it was the factor of the Islamic revival that now needed to be fought for and grabbed.

The word Islam outnumbered the word socialism in the PPP’s new manifesto and for the first time religion became the focal point of debate and discussion during an election in Pakistan.

Claims and counterclaims of the PPP and the PNA of who was a better Muslim became so intense that an editorial in Pakistan’s largest English daily, Dawn, pleaded to both the camps to keep Islam out of politics.

The PPP trounced the PNA in the National Assembly election. The PNA cried foul and accused the Bhutto regime of rigging the polls. The truth was that the regime had rigged only a handful of seats (in the Punjab) and would have won the election anyway.

But Bhutto wanted to change the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential one and for that he needed a big majority in the National Assembly.

PNA refused to contest the Provincial Assembly elections and instead began a protest movement that soon turned violent.

Demanding Bhutto’s resignation, PNA supporters, mostly made up of urban middle-class youth and supported by the industrialist and trader classes that were greatly stung by the Bhutto regime’s haphazard socialist manoeuvres, poured out onto the streets.

Surprised by the tenacity of the protesters, Bhutto began emergency talks with the PNA leadership.

The ironic aspect of the movement was that when the PNA and the protesters began to use Islamic symbolism and slogans, these were culled from what the Bhutto regime had begun to induct into school text books and governmental lingo.

But since both PNA and PPP were going on and on about Islam without ever bothering to explain exactly how they were planning to turn a religion based on moral and social codes into a functioning political and economic system, this eyewash was addressed by another eyewash.

In April 1977, the Bhutto regime met with some main leaders of the PNA (belonging to the JI, Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP)) and agreed to make Friday the weekly holiday instead of Sunday (as was the case in Saudi Arabia). He also agreed to ban the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages (to Muslims) and close down all nightclubs and bars.

Bhutto meets leaders of the PNA (June 1977).
Bhutto meets leaders of the PNA (June 1977).

But this did not save him from receiving another shock. In July 1977, his own General toppled his regime in a military coup and promptly arrested him.

General Ziaul Haq was handpicked by Bhutto, in spite of having a history of being highly conservative and an admirer of JI’s chief and Islamic scholar, Abul Ala Maududi.

Bhutto was assured by the outgoing Army Chief, General Tikka Khan, that Zia was completely apolitical and subservient.

When he imposed the country’s third Martial Law, Zia took PNA’s Nizam-e-Mustafa rhetoric and turned it into a draconian and then a legislative ideological project, giving the whole concept of the Pakistan Ideology its starkest and weightiest theological aspect thus far.

Bhutto was hanged in April 1979 through a sham trial.

Ziaul Haq addressing the nation after taking over power in a military coup (July 1977).
Ziaul Haq addressing the nation after taking over power in a military coup (July 1977).

The definite concoction

Zia began a programme to enforce Nizam-e-Mustafa. He was quick to realise that religion was the perfect excuse for a ruler to flex his muscles, especially in a country where the middle-class and petty-bourgeoisie upstarts who had travelled to oil-rich Arab countries for work had confused the power of the Petro-Dollar with the power of the strict strand of the faith that they had come into contact with over there.

Maududi’s, Pakistan ideology – battered by the voters in 1970 but mutated into meaning something closer to Bhutto’s equally convoluted ‘Islamic Socialism’ – now fell into the hands of Zia who gave it his own firm twist.

But he did not only make it a part of school textbooks, he also began to actually express it through draconian which he described as being ‘Islamic.’

Law after law based on a particular and orthodox understanding of Islam was rolled out, so much so that by the time of his death in 1988, the 1973 Constitution, that had originally been a product of progressive and democratic intent, became the enshrinement of certain laws and clauses that till this day seem to actually give a constitutional cover to what are indeed acts of bigotry.

After toppling the Z. A. Bhutto government in July 1977, Zia almost immediately got down to the business of radically transforming the ideological complexion of Pakistan, changing it from being a ‘ Muslim majority state’ into peddling it as a state that was supposedly conceived as a theocratic entity.

However, Zia and his ideological partners hit a brick wall in this respect when they couldn’t endorse their revisionist narrative with any of the sayings and speeches of Jinnah.

As a first step Zia banned the mention (in the media and school text books) of Jinnah’s famous speech that he made to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, and in which he clearly described Pakistan as a non-theocratic Muslim-majority state.

Thus, Zia’s ideological project now also included the ‘Islamisation’ of Jinnah. Soon, the positioning of Jinnah’s motto, ‘Unity, Faith, Discipline,’ was switched around and the word ‘faith’ placed ahead of unity and discipline. Suddenly it became ‘Faith, Unity, Discipline.’

To spread fear Zia began to order the public floggings of student leaders, troublesome journalists and petty thieves and then explained these acts as being part of the ‘Islamisation of Pakistan.’
To spread fear Zia began to order the public floggings of student leaders, troublesome journalists and petty thieves and then explained these acts as being part of the ‘Islamisation of Pakistan.’

But the biggest unintentional gag in this context emerged when, after still failing to get a worthwhile endorsement for his ‘Islamic’ narrative of Pakistan, Zia (in 1983) enthusiastically announced the discovery of Jinnah’s personal diary.

While talking to his ministers, Zia claimed that in the newly discovered ‘personal diary of the founder’, Jinnah had spoken about having a ‘powerful Head of State’ and of ‘the dangers of parliamentary democracy,’ conveniently concluding that Jinnah’s views were ‘very close to having an ‘Islamic system of government’.

The Urdu press (largely right-wing in orientation), gave lavish coverage to the event, even publishing a page from the supposed diary, as the state-owned PTV and Radio Pakistan organised and broadcast discussions with ‘scholars’ on this breath-taking discovery.

But, alas, the euphoria around this farce was thankfully short-lived. Two of Jinnah’s close associates and direct participants of the Pakistan Movement, Mumtaz Daultana and K H. Khurshid, rubbished Zia’s claims by saying there never was such a diary.

After this, a group of senior intellectuals from the Quaid-e-Azam Academy also denied that such a diary ever existed in the Academy’s archives (from which Zia had claimed the diary had emerged).

What’s even funnier is the fact that once his claims were trashed, not only did Zia never mention anything about the supposed diary ever again, a number of Urdu newspapers that had splashed the dramatic discovery went completely quiet — even to the extent of sheepishly avoiding to publish Daultana and Khurshid’s rebuttals. It was as if there was never any talk of a diary to begin with.

But even such a debacle could not halt Zia’s Jinnah project. In desperation, his information ministry simply ended up advising PTV and Radio Pakistan to only use those quotes of Jinnah that had the word Islam in them.

DAWN’s cartoonist, Zahoor’s depiction of how Jinnah was given a fake beard in the 1980s.
DAWN’s cartoonist, Zahoor’s depiction of how Jinnah was given a fake beard in the 1980s.

The implosion

The practice only stopped with Zia’s controversial demise in August 1988 and Jinnah was finally spared the false beard that Zia kept pinning on the founder’s otherwise shaven chin.

Nevertheless, no civilian government after Zia has dared to alter or expunge the laws planted in the Constitution by the Zia regime. The fear of being declared ‘anti-Islam’ and ‘anti-Pakistan Ideology’ overrides the will to neutralise these laws.

The General Musharraf regime that came in through a coup in 1999 did try to alter and reform some of these laws, but his efforts were largely blunted by the religious parties that saw a peak in their electoral popularity after US forces invaded Afghanistan in 2002.

Thus, in the last two decades, whole generations of educated, middle-class, young Pakistanis have grown up believing that the creation of a theocratic state was Jinnah’s main aim, and that the so-called Pakistan Ideology emerged fully-formed during the Pakistan Movement.

Many Pakistani intellectuals, historians and scholars have continued to oppose these views, explaining them as being doctrinal tools of the ruling elite and its religious allies with which they keeps society on a tight leash, and worrying more about abstract religious intricacies rather than about more realistic economic and political issues and aspirations.

But the truth is, with the help of the private Urdu media and the growing economic, judicial and political influence of the urban middle-classes, the Pakistan Ideology whose creation finally climaxed in the 1980s is what defines most young Pakistanis today.

Even if, ironically, it is more likely to make them say they are Muslims first and Pakistanis later. And here lies the core dichotomy of this ideology.


My name is Pakistan, and I’m not an Arab!

The mentioned dichotomy has eventually gone on to generate certain radical forces who do not believe in the country’s constitution, its armed forces and institutions because all these are defined by modern-day nationalistic borders and concepts that supposedly betray the seamless universality of the faith of a majority of Pakistanis.

So if the discussed ideology had climaxed in the 1980s, it began to implode during the latter days of the Musharraf regime.

So much so that today this ideology has become a stone around the country’s neck and no one quite knows how to take it off.

Unabashed attacks on schools, shrines, markets and mosques by an anarchic breed of religious fanatics have been haunting Pakistan for the last one decade or so. Many now believe that such attacks are due to the radical mutation of the many faith-based experiments that took place in Pakistan (to justify Pakistan’s existentialist purpose).—AFP/file
Unabashed attacks on schools, shrines, markets and mosques by an anarchic breed of religious fanatics have been haunting Pakistan for the last one decade or so. Many now believe that such attacks are due to the radical mutation of the many faith-based experiments that took place in Pakistan (to justify Pakistan’s existentialist purpose).—AFP/file

What is required from the state; the current and future governments; and from the country’s learned men and women is an all-out effort to resolve this dichotomy by readjusting the meaning of Pakistani nationhood. Jinnah clearly understood the idea of Pakistan to mean a Muslim-majority state where the state would be infused with the egalitarian and tolerant spirit of Islam, instead of being a finger-wagging monolith dictating a particular (and politicised) strand of the faith.

After Pakistan’s creation, religion’s political character was to be absorbed and then eschewed by the state and replaced with a modern notion of nationhood. To Jinnah Pakistan’s creation may have been a product of communal fires that burned across India, but such a fire was to be avoided in Pakistan.

He wanted to prove that the creation of Pakistan was an (albeit riotous) sacrifice made to herald communal peace in a region ravaged by religious violence. Pakistan was to evolve and move to the rhythms of modernity and driven by the egalitarian notions of Islam. The Muslim Nationalism that introduced the initial idea of Pakistan had already equated such a notion with some of the best secular and progressive ideas in the West.

But this was not to be. A country that emerged by promising to become an example of religious harmony in the region was eventually consumed by the violent waves that it had emerged from. The faulty anchor it then used to hold itself in the turbulent waters has now been rusting for a long time and no amount of paint can stop its erosion. A new anchor is needed to hold Pakistan’s early promise of being a dynamic state and nation.

Pakistan was created on a notion of Muslim Nationalism that described the Muslims of South Asia as a separate cultural entity (compared to the Hindus). It was a correct assessment.

But over the decades what got missed was the fact that the Muslims of South Asia were culturally separate even from the Muslims residing elsewhere in the world.

Thus, Muslims in Pakistan are also different from their brethren elsewhere because we are driven by the intellectual, social, cultural and political heritages that evolved from the dynamic 5000-year-old history of the land upon which Pakistan rests today.

The constant fusion between the centuries-old folk traditions of its ethnic groups and of the modernization zeal of scholarly Muslim icons such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Syed Aamir Ali, Iqbal and Jinnah, have developed a fascinating blueprint for a powerful nationhood that every Pakistani (Muslim or non-Muslim) can be proud of.

So why replace this blueprint for an identity based on fake assumptions about one’s political, historical and cultural roots?

We have to be Pakistanis first.

We are a nation defined by our own unique cultural borders. We are a separate Muslim reality and can’t be compared to those of the Middle Eastern and African Muslim communities (just as they can’t be with us). And they don’t.

We have had our own historical, political and cultural trajectories quite unlike those of the Muslim communities elsewhere.

We must look within to find our collective genius that is still rooted in the traditions and history of the land that we stand upon and not in the oil fields and palaces of Arabia.

We are a unique nation. Let’s celebrate this, instead of being confused by it.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1160202/rusting-anchor-the-creation-mutation-of-a-national-ideology

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